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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Nikon D800 and new camera choices

Ever since the release of the Nikon D800 camera so much has been written about it. I have read many posts, reviews, criticisms and viewed sample images. The sales (pre-orders) for the camera have been unprecedented and it looks like it could become one of Nikons bestselling cameras. Why has this camera in so much demand?

If you are in the market for a new camera there is no shortage of options. Nikon also released their much awaited flagship camera (the D4) and Canon released the 1D X and the 5D III. The competition has surely heated up between these two companies. But let’s not get into which brand is better. Both brands offer high quality camera gear. If you own a Nikon or Canon camera you have probably invested in several lenses which makes switching brands impractical, even though a small percentage of people do.

While the Canon 1D X, 5D III and the Nikon D4 look like great cameras they are in many ways evolutionary. Better than their predecessors, with some more features but they do not offer something drastically different or improved. It could be debated that full HD video with HDMI output on the new Nikons is a big improvement. That may be so but I am discussing still photography features on these cameras. Enter the Nikon D800. First let me clarify, that the D800 is NOT an update of the D700 but a new category of camera. I am not making this up, Nikon has made this statement. I know what you are thinking…shouldn’t they have named the camera something else? Yes, but that would make it too easy for the user :) It is confusing but that’s what they called it. That means Nikon will likely release a mini D4 (D800 size body and the same sensor as D4) sometime in 2013. This is just a guess on my part Nikon hasn’t made any such claim. In the US, the D700 is staying in Nikon’s line-up as an entry level full frame (FX) body. Anyway, so why is the D800 a new category of camera? One word…RESOLUTION!

The D800 has a lot of the same features available on the D4 but what makes it stand out is the 36 megapixel resolution. Did anyone think the megapixel war was over? The reactions to the 36MP resolution have been diverse to say the least. Some say “that’s too much resolution” while others can’t wait to get their hands on the camera. Nikon has stated that the D800 is primarily for subjects like landscape, architecture, fashion, portrait, etc. It’s clearly a camera for photographers that need plenty of detail in their photos. Photographers who crop a lot might gravitate to this camera too. The extra resolution is more likely to be an advantage than a disadvantage. Creating a panoramic image like the one featured in this blog post would allow the photographer to still have plenty of resolution (after the crop) if a very large print was needed. A stitched panoramic image with moving subjects can be very tricky and sometimes impossible.

The larger resolution means more data, thus, a slower frame rate (4fps). That should not be a problem unless you photograph a lot of action (wildlife, sports, etc.). However, in DX crop mode (1.5x crop) we can still get a 16MP file and get a boost in the frame rate (6fps). That’s not too bad! The previous versions of Nikon’s full frame (FX) also had the DX crop (1.5x) but it was not very useful because the resolution drop would leave the photographer with a 5MP file. The D800 also has the options for a 1.2x crop and 5:4 format crop which ads a lot of versatility to the camera. All this thanks to the resolution. This is why “too much resolution” can be a reaction when the person hasn’t assessed the advantages of more resolution combined with the options mentioned above. Hard drives are cheap, so that shouldn’t be an excuse either.

That brings us to an important feature…high ISO performance. Nikon has stated that the ISO performance is equivalent to that of the D700. There are also plenty of sample images that you could check out on the internet. I can’t vouch for the samples but they definitely corroborate Nikon’s claims. I’ll be waiting for samples and reviews from more reliable or well know sources but I’ve been pretty impressed by the amount of detail visible even in the high ISO samples. The D800 starts shipping in a few days so we should be seeing plenty of sample images soon.

If the low light focusing and metering is anything like the D4 that will only enhance the appeal of the D800. I have only touched on the main features that make the D800 different and versatile. To review all the features please visit the manufacturer’s website. There are more reasons to buy the D800 than not. Although, you might want to wait just a little longer if you do photograph a lot of action. Nikon should announce the D400 by the end of March. If the rumors are correct we may be looking at a 24MP, 8fps camera. Yes, I am going to wait.

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